TV, radio, Internet, books ... every day we become shaped by the stories we consume. But what about the backstory - the story behind the story? Often we're so focused on the story itself that we miss appreciating why a story became a story. A citizen becomes president; but how? What did they learn? Who did they become on their journey? Every story has a backstory; sometimes it's the better story.
First in 1983 there was Erin. Then in 1986 came Amber. Our girls have always meant the world to me.
Nobody gives you a guide book when you become a parent. Sometimes you can reach out to family for advice, sometimes you can ask friends, and sometimes you pray and just hope you're doing the right thing.
Over the years we've had our challenges, but those were only small bumps in the road on a life-long journey. I love our girls. So much. Each is different, but I couldn't be more proud of the women they've both become.
Father's Day 2001
This morning I was looking for a missing book. While searching my bookshelves, I found a gift the girls gave me for Father's Day in 2001 - "The Quotable Dad" (You can still get it on Amazon).
As I popped it open, I thought "Hey, maybe there's a quote or two I could add to the quotes page I started on my website. That's when I remembered what they wrote in the front of the book. I enjoyed the book itself when they gave it to me, but that's not why 20+ years later it still has a place on my shelf. What they wrote inside made it worth saving.
Other birthdays & special occasions I've gotten shirts, Koi fish, and the proverbial "coupon for a free garage cleaning." (I still have that coupon too - I'm just waiting for the right time to use it ... seems they forgot to add an expiration date.) All the gifts have been special, but this one was extra special.
Every Story Has a Backstory
I believe the backstory - the story behind the story - is often better than the story itself.
In this case, the story was a book's collection of quotes from fathers. Nice. There are quotes from famous people, and quotes from some people I've never heard of. Some people died centuries ago, some later went to prison (that's ironic - quotes on Fatherhood from one of America's best loved TV dads - who then did time for sexual assault), and a few are (maybe) still living.
So on my bookshelf, if you looked at the spine as it sits nestled between the other books, you'd only see the title "The Quotable Dad" and think "Well that's nice."
But open it up and inside the front cover you'll find the real story.
For decades we struggle raising our kids and can feel like we've failed miserably. My dad set a pretty high bar for me when it came to parenting. I try my damnedest, but it's hard to match his accomplishments. And then there are those times ... those unexpected moments life has a way of handing you when you're in the middle of your own pity party ... that can lift our heart into orbit.
For me, while I do like the book's stories, it's the backstory I cherish. After 17+ years of struggling to be a good parent, those words from our girls are the treasure.
This winter Erin will be 40. And this summer Amber turned 37.
When I turned 50, my dad made a simple remark - "How can that be?" I look at our girls now and wonder the same thing - "How can that be?"
Our kids now have kids; one in elementary school, one in middle school, one in high school, and one in college. And my dad has passed on.
To paraphrase the last quote on the last page of the book, "When you teach your child, you teach your child's child." Now when we go to the grandkids' football games, attend a choral concert, or have a family dinner - I don't just see our girls. I see my dad in their kids. That's four generations. I know Dad did okay; I hope Cindy & I did too.
And maybe ... one day after I've joined my dad, when our kids’ kids’ kids get a special gift on a special day ... maybe there'll be a note - or words spoken - like what I got. And maybe, just maybe, it won't be the gift that's important, but it'll be what's behind the gift. Generations of struggles, laughter, successes, lessons learned, and celebrations of joy. That's the real treasure.